Espen's Birth Story
Espen Righetti Strom, you are my best friend. One day you might read this and I hope you understand how much I love you and how you have made our family whole. Your dad and I are so blessed to have you as our son.
There truly are no words to describe how becoming a mother changes you and I pray that every woman that desires to have a child gets the opportunity. It took us 2.5 years to have this little one and it was worth all the waiting and heartache to get to this point.
My friend, Ashley has been telling me for months that I need to write a birth story, so here we are…7 months later. I’m not sure why I didn’t write this earlier, maybe it’s because I have some sort of PTSD from the whole experience, but, I did read a lot of these before giving birth myself and I found them therapeutic…so here we go.
So there we were, 7 months ago. It was 3 days before my due date. I was feeling like I would go into labor any moment, but I honestly didn’t really know. I felt so out of the loop. Not knowing when something life-changing is going to happen is scary. I knew it was going to be in the next 2 weeks regardless, but it’s still weird not knowing the exact date. We heard so many stories, took classes, and read so much about birth that I thought I was prepared. I was a collegiate athlete, so I figured it would be the equivalent to the pain and effort it takes to play a really really tough 90-minute soccer game with maybe a couple of overtimes…boy, was I wrong.
Wednesday, February 6, 11PM: I felt like something was off. I woke up with some minor pains (yes, I went to bed very early). I kept thinking it was maybe just gas and that I could go back to bed, but I was never really able to go back to bed after that. The pains were coming and going every 5 or so minutes. At this point, I hadn’t woken Andrew up.
Thursday, February 7, 2-3AM: The pains started to get worse and closer together. The pains were more annoying than anything. I just tried to lay in bed and ride them out.
Thursday, 3:30AM: I finally woke Andrew up, the pains were getting more intolerable and closer together- about every 3 minutes. He didn’t really think I was going into labor. From everything we learned in class, if you’re able to talk through the pains, then you are still in the beginning stages of labor and if you go to the hospital, they will probably just send you home. However, I had tested positive a few week prior for Group B Strep, which means I needed an IV of antibiotics at least 4 hours before delivery, so I had to time this thing right and get to the hospital kind of early.
Thursday, 5AM: My contractions were about 1 minute apart and getting worse. I was using my exercise ball to relieve some of the pain. Most of the contractions were in my back with some pain in the lower belly. It’s funny, when you’re pregnant and asking friends about how you know whether you’re in labor or just having some gas pains, they all say, “OH, you will know if you’re in labor.” and they were definitely right. It’s like no other pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ll try to spare you the dramatics.
Thursday, 6AM: I made Andrew call my doctor. She said it sounded like I was in labor and to come down to the hospital to get checked out. We only live a couple of minutes away from the hospital.
I didn’t know at the time, but Espen was sunny side up- meaning, he was head first but facing upwards. The hardest part of his head was resting on my lower back instead of my belly, hence the lower back pain I was experiencing. Most sunny side up babies tend to flip during labor and come out the correct way, but not little Espen. He was a little stubborn…or maybe a little stuck.
Thursday, 6:15AM: They checked me in at the hospital and wheeled me up to a room. A nurse came in and took my measurement. I was 3.5 centimeters dilated. This sounds like a good thing, but I was 3 centimeters dilated 2 days before at my last check-up. Needless to say, we were both a little disappointed. I had just been through 5 hours of pain for a half of a centimeter.
Thursday, 7:00AM: My doctor stripped my membrane. It is as painful as the name makes it sound. The doctor takes her gloved hand and sweeps the inside of the cervix in a circular motion. They do this in an effort to speed up the process and get you more centimeters. She did this a few days before at my last appointment with her, too.
You aren’t really supposed to go to the hospital until you are about 5 to 6 cm dilated. Since I was having regular contractions, they thought I was probably in labor. In retrospect, Espen’s posterior position (sunny side up) was probably causing a road block. Most women with babies in the posterior position tend to have much longer and more painful labor because the baby can’t move through the canal as easily as they’re supposed to.
Thursday, 8AM: They came in and measured me again to see if the membrane sweep had worked. I was about 4cm, but the nurse was probably being generous giving me that extra half centimeter.
They gave me two options: I could either stay at the hospital and get induced or I could go home and try to see how much further I could get on my own. From everything we had heard, getting induced is not fun.
When you are induced, you are given Pitocin. Pitocin is the man-made version of Oxytocin- the hormone that women naturally produce when they go into labor. It is given through an IV and it makes labor go really fast. When induced, it can be hard to withstand the pain because the contractions come on super strong and close together. Most people that get induced end up having to get an epidural. The epidural terrified me. A giant needle going into my spine sounds horrific and like an accident waiting to happen.
I decided to go home and try to just let things progress naturally.
Thursday, 11AM: My contractions started to subside. I tried my best to rest, since I hadn’t slept at all the night before. I went on a couple walks to try to get things going, but nothing more really happened that day.
Thursday, 10PM: I went to bed that night thinking the whole thing was a false alarm and that I probably wasn’t going to go into full-on labor for another couple of days.
Friday, February 8, 2AM: I woke up with worse pains than the night before and really close together.
Most women go into labor during the middle of the night. Babies are asleep during the day when we are up and moving around. Our movement lulls them to sleep. Then, they wake up in the womb when we are asleep.
Friday, 4AM: I called my doctor and she told me to come back to the hospital. It felt like I was in the twilight zone, I was only 5 centimeters dilated. Two more hours laboring at home for another half centimeter. At this rate, it was going to take me a week and a whole lot of pain to get to 10 centimeters to deliver this baby. I would like to think that I am the type of person that could do that, but I just didn’t have it in me. I hadn’t slept in two days and the contractions were just getting more and more painful.
Friday, 5AM: They decided that they needed to induce me and get the baby out. Something seemed off to them. They could tell I was having serious contractions, but thought it was weird that nothing was really happening.
I was given Pitocin at a low dose (2) and they also started my first round of antibiotics.
Friday, 1PM: I was at a 10 on the Pitocin. They decided it was time to meansure my cervix again- I was 6 centimeters dilated, but at this point, I could barely breathe or talk through contractions.
I needed the epidural.
Friday, 1:30PM: The anesthesiologist came in wheeling his cart full of drugs. Andrew held my body in position and the anesthesiologist did his thing. I wish I didn’t hype the epidural up in my head. It was honestly the least painful part of the entire experience. Once the anesthesiologist put the epidural in and shot the meds through, I was pain free. Probably one of the best feelings of all time. They also give you a catheter when you get the epidural because you can’t get up or move around.
Friday, 1:30-6:00PM: The remaining hours of labor were relaxing. My family slowly all started to trickle in and visit. I was resting and just trying to keep all my energy for pushing later on.
Friday, 6:00PM: I was feeling like I needed to push. The nurse took my measurement and I was at 10 centimeters. She let me know at this point that they were going to start letting my epidural wear off so that I could have some feeling for pushing. I guess this helps…
Friday, 6:15PM: My doctor arrived and they got everything ready for me to start pushing. Andrew was put on left leg duty and my nurse had the other one.
This is the part that you think they exaggerate in the movies, but they actually don’t even come close to how dramatic the real thing is. 5 minutes into pushing, the doctor told us the baby was sunnyside up (this is where we found out). She tried to flip him, but she wasn’t able to. She told me I was going to have to deliver him that way.
Andrew thinks the best part about me pushing was that we were able to watch the Warriors game. They were playing the Suns and we won by like 10 points- don’t quote me on that, but pretty sure. I was trying to distract myself from the pain by watching the game. This may not have been the best choice.
Friday, 7:45PM: Around 1 hour and 30 minutes into pushing, I was feeling like I might die, like literally on the verge of death. I had been pushing so hard for so long and I wasn’t feeling like anything was happening. I was operating on about 3 hours of sleep in the last 2.5 days and my energy was dwindling. I asked for them to bring me the big mirror so that I could see what I was doing. I probably should have done this earlier. The big mirror allows you to see what type of pushing was bringing progress and what pushes were useless. There really are different types. You are kind of testing out your different pushes the whole time hoping that one of them is the right kind. Obviously, the big mirror sounds completely disgusting but I swear it is necessary.
At one point my blood pressure started to drop and they made me take a break. When I say “break,” it sounds restful, but I was in a lot of pain because I didn’t have any epidural meds anymore. Coming off the epidural makes you shake, so I had that going, as well.
Because Espen was in that sunnyside up position, his shoulders, arms, and knees were all in my lower abdomen. The pain of his limbs was probably why my blood pressure was starting to drop and I kept holding my breath to try to manage with the pain…oops. All I can remember at this point is my doctor saying that I have to breathe and giving me this look like I better listen to her or something really bad is going to happen. I honestly don’t know how I calmed down and breathed through the pain, but I think it was maybe adrenaline because my blood pressure steadied and she told me to push again. I think I had a few more rounds before he finally crowned, but my gosh, it felt like forever.
Friday, February 8, 8:05PM: Espen Righetti Strom was born. He was 7 pounds 15 ounces and 21 inches long! My doctor let me pull him out myself- Kourtney Kardashian style! I was able to put him on my own chest immediately for skin-to-skin. I remember bursting into tears and looking at Andrew in disbelief that our baby was actually on my chest.
…and then the placenta. I won’t go into that- other than I didn’t end up saving it and eating it, but I probably should have because post-partum is real. Look up Catastrophic Anxiety.
Oh yeah, I had my mom, my grandma, my two sisters-in-law, and my cousin in the room, as well as my sister on facetime for the whole thing. It’s safe to say, they got a SHOW. My cousin took photos, but I’m honestly a little disturbed at my appearance. Let’s just say, I’m not one of those women who have their hair and makeup looking perfect post-birth.
I had some tearing internally that my doctor stitched up and some problems with #2 a few days later.
Today, September 27: It’s true that they say you forget a lot of the pain of labor a few months later- that’s why women end up doing this multiple times. I think I’m just now entering that phase, although recounting the memories for this birth story probably didn’t help.
I hope that wasn’t terrifying for other moms or future moms. It’s important to remember that Espen was in the sunnyside up posterior position and that that isn’t normal. Not every labor is going to be as long or painful as this and I sure hope, God willing, if I ever have the pleasure of doing it again, that the next one is a bit quicker and less painful.